The Grade I $500,000 Hollywood Gold Cup, which will be run for the 74th time Saturday at Betfair Hollywood Park, is shaping up as a showcase for Horse of the Year candidate Game On Dude.
The defending champion, who is trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, is likely to have only four rivals in the 1 ¼ mile race over Cushion Track. The probable opponents: Clubhouse Ride (trainer Craig Lewis, jockey Joe Talamo), Liaison (Baffert, Martin Garcia), Oilisblackgold (Craig Dollase, Edwin Maldonado) and Kettle Corn (John Sadler, Rafael Bejarano). Entries for the Gold Cup will be taken Wednesday.
Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith has the call again on Game On Dude. Smith is 4-for-4 since teaming with the 6-year-old gelded son of Awesome Again. Game On Dude has won 13 of 25 and earned $4,702,158. Three of his wins have come in four starts at Betfair Hollywood Park.
Charles Fipke’s Java’s War, winner of the Grade I Blue Grass Stakes April 13 and a troubled 13th in the Kentucky Derby, heads a field of five or six likely starters in the Grade II, $150,000 Swaps Stakes.
The Swaps, for 3-year-olds at 1 1/8 miles on Cushion Track, will be run Thursday, July 4, kicking off a loaded Fourth of July weekend at the Inglewood track. In honor of Independence Day, veterans and active duty personnel – with proper military identification – will receive free grandstand admission.
The Friday, July 5 program will mark the final night racing card at Betfair Hollywood Park. Post time is 7:05. A concert featuring 80z All Stars after the races are concluded and beer will be offered for $1 from 7-9 p.m.
Mike Mitchell was elated with workouts by stable stars Obviously and Camp Victory June 22 and stamped them ready for their respective starts in Saturday’s Grade I, $300,000 Shoemaker Mile and Grade I, $250,000 Triple Bend Handicap.
The Shoemaker, which is on turf, and the Triple Bend – at seven furlongs over Cushion Track – are Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” races.
The winner of the Shoemaker Mile receives fees-paid entry into the Breeders’ Cup Turf Mile while the Triple Bend winner gets the same reward for the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile.
Irving Orozco’s career almost ended before it really started.
The 19-year-old apprentice was tied for third in the Golden Gate Fields rider standings with 37 victories last year when disaster nearly struck.
Last Sept. 15, Orozco was riding Mettler Station, who was racing just behind Diamond Geezah and Bye Bye See Ya. Diamond Geezah drifted into the path of Bye Bye See Ya at the sixteenth pole, causing the latter to clip heels and fall.
In the revolving door that was the track announcer’s job at Betfair Hollywood Park, Vic Stauffer entered the building in 2001 and slammed the door behind him.
When the iconic Harry Henson retired in 1982 after calling races at the Inglewood track since 1959, numerous track announcers went behind the microphone until Stauffer settled in the big chair.
There is no official list, but Kip Hannan and Roger Roman, keepers of the massive Hollywood Park video archive, have assembled a best-guess tabulation of all track announcers who have called at least one race at the historic track:
Friday’s seventh race at Betfair Hollywood Park has suddenly become the hottest topic in racing.
After completing eight months of rehabilitation from life-threatening medical issues, Grade I winner Paynter is back. The 4-year-old is one of eight entered in the $62,500 allowance test at seven furlongs.
Not since Barbaro’s valiant fight to survive has there been as much public outpouring of affection for an ailing race horse.
Dan Ward, assistant to Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, indicated that both Lady of Fifty and Esentepe will start in Saturday’s Grade I, $250,000 Vanity Handicap at 1 1-8 miles on Cushion Track.
Lady of Fifty is the more accomplished of the two. The 4-year-old gray daughter of After Market won the Grade II Bayakoa Handicap last Dec. 8 at Betfair Hollywood Park and was second to Open Water in the Grade II Marjorie L. Everett Handicap May 18 in her first start in three months.
Esentepe, a Group III winner in England, was extremely impressive winning an optional claimer May 9 in her Cushion Track debut. Rafael Bejarano rode both fillies last time and it is uncertain which one he will ride in the Vanity. Corey Nakatani will ride the other.
Several horses, riders and trainers with Betfair Hollywood Park connections are prominent on Saturday’s Belmont Stakes program.
The two runners who will draw the most West Coast attention are Jungle Racing, et al’s Mizdirection and William Peeples’ Let Em Shine.
Mizdirection, who is stabled with Mike Puype at Betfair Hollywood Park, won the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint last Nov. 3 and is on a four-race winning streak. The 5-year-old mare has been pegged the 7-2 third choice in the Grade I, $500,000 Just a Game at one mile on turf, which will go as the eighth race. She’ll leave from the number six post under jockey Mike Smith.
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